December is fast approaching – this is the perfect time to tighten up portfolios for the incoming year. In the coming weeks, I know that I’ll be preoccupied with this, especially since I’ve gained some new clients this year.
Here are some things we should consider when tweaking our portfolios:
Quality of Work
By now, your standards might be different from what they were when you last put your portfolio together. What was a masterpiece yesterday might seem like your worst project today. It might hurt you to take down projects that you had fond memories of, but if it’s not your best work, it’s also going to hurt your chances of getting new clients.
Looking at your portfolio, how closely does it resemble the type of work you’ve been doing lately? A couple of years ago, I actually linked to some dull articles about loans, which had outdated information and had nothing to do with the kind of work I was pursuing at that time (which was tourist city guides). Imagine what would’ve happened if I showed that kind of work when I applied to Web Worker Daily. My application would’ve been met with a big “Huh?”
Apart from being closer to your current work thematically, having more recent items in your portfolio shows that you’ve been busy and in demand. It’s rare that anyone wants to work with a freelancer whose last good output was over two years old. You wouldn’t want the embarrassment of having a website in your portfolio that was already redesigned by your client since you last worked on it. It gives the impression that your work didn’t give them the results they needed.
It takes a long time before a writer finds her voice, or a designer discovers her own visual style. If you’ve accomplished this for yourself, this should show on your portfolio. After all, this is an important part of your branding.
There’s nothing wrong with accepting every job that comes your way when you’re just starting out. But if your displayed work represents too many industries, niches, and price ranges, this could be detrimental. While there must always be diversity in your work, there’s such a thing as having so much diversity that your ideal clients can’t identify with you. By looking at your portfolio, your leads should be able to say “This freelancer works with people like us. He gets our kind.”
Taking direction into account is especially important if you want to change niches. For example, if you want to move away from writing gadget reviews and get into writing press releases for tech startups, your portfolio should have press releases in it.
It’s also possible that you want to work on two different niches, and therefore serve two different kinds of clients. If this is the case, you should have two different portfolios ready. The bigger the difference between the niches you’re working on, the more you need separate portfolios for each.
This approach is similar to leaving out some items in your resume that seem unnecessary or irrelevant to the job you’re applying for. Just present each client with what she needs to see.
How often do you update your portfolio? How selective are you when it comes to building it?